Work With Your Cycle
12 Jun

Work With Your Cycle

Let’s talk women’s health.

Over the course of my time as a coach, it's always the same questions...

“I could easily back squat 150 pounds last week, and today 140 pounds feels extremely heavy, why is that?”

“I’m eating so much and I still feel so hungry, I’m a bottomless pit. What’s wrong with me?”

“I slept so well last night, but I’m very sluggish and have no motivation today. Is that normal?”  

These side-effects are natural ladies! Let's talk about why.

We can’t dig deeper until we understand the hormone ‘wave’ that happens every 28 days (some ladies have shorter cycles, some longer, but ‘normally’ it’s 4 weeks).

Day 1

The obvious is happening. We’re cramping because the uterus can’t shed on it’s own, so muscle contractions help it along. We’re bloated due to the high fluctuation in hormones (estrogen and progesterone) which causes fluid retention and swelling. We can gain POUNDS of water during this time (so just stay off the scale if this sort of thing bothers you). That said, this is the ‘low hormone’ phase and you’re potentially stronger (than you usually are) during this time, less likely to feel pain and you have a quicker recovery time. In other words, hormonally, you’re like a man when you’re on your period. Even though you may feel your horrible, absolute strength in the gym is best during your period.

Day 5-6

Estrogen starts to rise

Day 12 

Estrogen is surging, we’re feeling great and have lots of energy and also feel our most attractive. At some point in the next few days, you’ll ovulate (thanks to a spike in luteinizing hormone). You’re feeling great, but you might not hit the same numbers and put up the same scores you did last week.

Day 16-22

Estrogen drops and then starts to rise again slowly and progesterone rises very quickly. This means it’s harder to make muscle. Estrogen decreases muscle growth and progesterone increases the breakdown of muscle. That means we’re doomed, right? Wrong. This makes it even more important for women to ingest protein that is high in leucine or BCAAs before exercise and again post training, after a cool-down and you able to properly digest and absorb. (Whey protein, if tolerated, is a great option here)

Day 24-28

Hello there PMS! Why do we crave sweet and salty things? Why are we bloated? Why is it so hot in here? Why does everything make me so mad or want to cry? Well, estrogen reduces your ability to burn carbs and increases your ability to burn fat. Well, we know that carbs aren’t what keep us’s fat, so no wonder we’re hungry. Then we feel bloated because of the reasons stated in ‘Day 1’. Plasma is directly correlated to the volume of blood in our system, when it’s low, our blood is thicker, making exercise ‘feel’ harder. We feel hot because our core temperature is raised, thicker blood means it’s harder to sweat and cool down. good thing about this phase is that we actually burn more calories due to a slight increase in metabolism. You might feel gross, but your anaerobic capacity and anaerobic power is significantly higher.

So, how can we combat all of this so that we feel as stable and ‘normal’ as possible?

First, keep a journal. Track things such as when your cycle started, how you feel, any noticings in training (so you can pass these trends to your coach), what you crave, and how many pounds you gain the first day. All of this info will help you. I recommend the app ‘Clue’ (as seen below)

Second, a few things that may potentially ward off cramping is to take magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids. If you experience headaches, stay hydrated, you could even load up on higher sodium foods such as chicken stock, and load up on foods that are high in nitric-oxide (beets, pomegranate, watermelon, dark chocolate-85% or higher, citrus fruits, walnuts,  and spinach).

Third, if you’re on a solid lifestyle routine (sleep hygiene is top notch, you stick to foundational nutritional principles, you continue to move) you are on the right track. So go out there and live life larger.


< Back to Blog